West Woodhay Church

The Church of St Lawrence in West Woodhay was built on its current site in 1883, in Blomfield’s Early English Revival style, and extended in 1894. Very much a Victorian squire’s church, it can hold about 100 people including both the Nave and the Choir, and more when chairs are added. Services are held with  the considerable benefit of a restored “Father Willis” organ.

When you visit the church, go inside and look at the windows all around you, the carvings, the embroideries, and the three cherubs brought from the Castle of Moy in Scotland; also the encaustic tiles from the mediaeval church which are set into the bottom of the wall of the tower. Outside, look at the memorial garden pictured above, that was created in memory of Sarah Henderson, who died in 1972.

West Woodhay is part of the Walbury Benefice; at the time of creation of this page a new website is about to be set up for the benefice – this will contain full details of services, but in the meantime for any enquiries please contact our Rector on 01488 608400 or the Administrator in the Office on 01635 226064.

There are a number of images on this page – please click an image if you want to see a bigger version; most will oblige. Copyright on all images remains with West Woodhay.


Some history

The Church at West Woodhay is dedicated to St Lawrence of Canterbury, it is believed that this has been so since the earliest days of a church in West Woodhay, dated to 1302. At that time the fair at Woodhay took place on the first three days of February; the feast of St Lawrence of Canterbury is on 2nd February  and the fairs normally took place on the three days over the feast of the patron saint of the parish.

There have been three known churches in West Woodhay, two in the grounds of the House and one on the present site.

The early mediaeval building survived until 1716; the then owner of the Manor Sir William Rudyerd obtained agreement to replace it on the basis that it was “very ancient and in great decay and not anyways (with safety), to be repaired”.

Rudyerd’s replacement was built in the classical style, probably designed by Sir John Vanbrugh. Only the foundations and some of the tombstones survive, within the Gardens of West Woodhay House, just to the left of the front of the House itself.

This picture is assumed to have been taken shortly before the church was replaced, and is a view from the side of the house, across the lawns.

The third and current church building (see pictures at the top of this  page) is a fine example of Sir Arthur Blomfield’s Early English Revival style, using local flint and bath stone, and built in 1883 by William Henry Cole.

The Sanctuary windows were made by William Morris’s company. The central crucifixion dates from 1883 east window Burne-Jones Crucifixion, with the cross as a tree, designed in 1877 for St Michael’s Torquay. The windows to left and right date  from 1887 – Morris’s St Augustine, and Burne-Jones’s St Peter and St Paul.

The carvings over the altar are the work of the Belgian artist Goyer. The carvings of the pew ends, pulpit and lectern were the work of Miss Jessie Cole, and much of the embroidery was the work of her sister Miss Edith Cole.

The building was extended by 12 feet in 1894 at the western end, and a vestry and organ chamber added on the north side of the chancel. The organ is a fine example of a Willis organ and has been restored. The oak screen in front of the organ chamber and vestry were added in 1901.

There are two bells in the tower; the smaller is unmarked but the larger was cast by Robert Cor of Aldbourne in 1717, gifted by William Sloper to his new church and transferred to the newer building. The bells were restored recently.

Little remains from the earlier buildings, but in the base of the tower behind the choir are some mediaeval encaustic tiles believed to originate from the first church and  one memorial transferred from the second church building.

There are a number of memorials in the Church and outside – for a list of memorials please click here. Mr HW Henderson panelled the nave in memory of his sister Caroline, and Mr John Henderson presented the three carved cherubs that came from the Castle of Moy in Scotland and can now be seen above the font. Outside is a memorial garden, created by Mr John Henderson in memory of his first wife Sarah, who died in a hunting accident in 1972. The garden is a place of beauty and of peac